“THAT’S Taiwan?”, “That looks like a dream!”, “Everything there is so pretty”, “I want to go there so bad!” are just some of the messages I received from family and friends as I shared pictures from my Taiwan travels. This small island in East Asia is a stunning destination for world-class national parks, cultural sites, street food markets, and so much more. I was truly blown away by everything that Taiwan has to offer and left my trip wondering why it isn’t on more travelers’ radars. Trust me, you won’t regret adding Taiwan to the top of your travel bucket list! This Taiwan travel guide will walk you through everything you need to know to have an unforgettable journey.
Taiwan Travel Guide: FAQs
Why should I visit Taiwan?
There are many reasons why you should add the enchanting island of Taiwan to the top of your travel bucket list. From its stunning landscapes, including majestic mountains and pristine beaches, to its bustling night markets filled with delectable street food, Taiwan has something for every traveler. You can explore Taiwanese culture at ancient temples and historic towns, seek adventure at some of Taiwan’s natural wonders, meet friendly locals, or indulge in mouthwatering dishes. There are countless treasures that make Taiwan a remarkable destination for anyone.
How can I get around Taiwan?
Taiwan is well-connected by busses and trains, especially in bigger cities such as Taipei and Taichung. To travel to and from major cities and regions, there is a high-speed rail (HSR) system, as well as intercity buses. Once you’re in a city or town, you can use local busses, subways, and taxis to get around. Keep in mind that even in Taipei, public transportation can be irregular with long intervals. I found that the average interval for buses in Taipei was 30 minutes, which can slow down your plans if you don’t time it right. It takes planning in advance to make sure you’re catching the right bus at the best time.
Google Maps is the best app for looking up directions, while Bus+ is the best app for searching arrival times. The arrival times on Google Maps were often wrong, while Bus+ was usually right. I recommend using both apps in conjunction for the best results.
For taking day trips outside of Taipei, you’ll have the best luck by either renting a car or joining a guided tour. Trying to rely on public transportation will take lots of time and effort that you won’t want to waste on such a tight schedule. Keep reading for more information on the best guided tours.
When should I visit Taiwan?
Taiwan is a great destination year-round. However, to avoid extreme temperatures and the rainy season, most people suggest visiting between March and May or October and December. Luckily, Taiwan’s rainy season is not as extreme as in some of its surrounding areas, so you shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re traveling during the rainy season. If you’re sensitive to heat, consider avoiding travel during the summer when highs fall in the 90s.
Here is an overview of the weather in Taiwan by month (based on Taipei & surrounding lowland areas):
|64°F to 82°F
|82°F to 93°F
|75°F to 86°F
|54°F to 68°F
|Wet, rainy season
|Drier, occasional rain
What should I pack for Taiwan?
Unless you’re visiting Taiwan in the winter, it’s likely that you’ll experience hot temperatures and rainfall. Winters are short and mild while summers are long and hot, and rainfall is common year-round, even during the “dry” seasons. You should pack accordingly, with heat and rain in mind.
Additionally, there are some comforts from home that won’t be available in Taiwan (at least in the form that you are familiar with). These include deodorant, sunscreen, and tampons.
For an extensive list of must-have packing items that you might not have thought of but absolutely should not forget, read my women’s Taiwan packing list now.
Where should I stay in Taiwan?
This itinerary suggests that with 1 week in Taiwan, you base yourself in Taipei. Not only is Taipei a great city to stay in and explore, but it’s positioned well for some amazing day trips across northern Taiwan. Without having to move hotels, you’ll be able to see so much of what the north of the island has to offer, from historic old towns to marvelous national parks.
In Taipei, I highly recommend staying near Taipei Main Station. From this area, you can easily take public transportation across the entire city. Additionally, all of the guided tours I recommend include pick-up at or near Taipei Main Station, saving you lots of transportation time on long day-trip days. Not only is the area around Taipei Main Station great location-wise, but it’s an exciting area with lots to do.
I chose to stay at Hotel Relax 5, which I highly recommend for a mid-range budget. From foot massage parlors to the bustling streets of Ximending, there was so much to do within walking distance of the hotel. Plus, it was a great area for getting around.
How can I get phone service in Taiwan?
My favorite option for accessing the Internet across the world is the Airalo eSIM. An eSIM doesn’t need to be physically put in and taken out; it’s simply installed onto your phone and connects to Internet anywhere in the world as soon as you land. Instead of wasting time looking for a local plastic SIM, you can activate the eSIM immediately after installation or upon arrival in Taiwan. This is the easiest and most convenient option, and it’s reliable. I’ve used Airalo all over the world and I’m always a happy customer. Plus, if you are continuing your travels after Taiwan, you can get a regional Asia eSIM that works in 14 countries.
Keep in mind that eSIMs only provide data service for connecting to the Internet, not calling and texting plans. If you need to make calls or send texts abroad, then you can pick up a physical SIM card at the airport upon arrival by pre-ordering here.
What about money in Taiwan?
When you arrive at the airport in Taiwan, I recommend taking out cash right away. Not only will you need it to buy and load an EasyCard for transportation, but many establishments don’t take credit card. Throughout your trip, you’ll pay for a majority of your food, souvenirs, and bubble teas in cash. This is especially true outside of Taipei and at local shops and restaurants in Taipei. There is a Bank of Taiwan ATM on the basement floor of the airport near the MRT, which is said to have the lowest international fees.
Is Taiwan vegetarian-friendly?
Yes, Taiwan is very vegetarian-friendly! In fact, PETA named Taipei as the most vegan-friendly city in Asia due to its abundance of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants and cafes. Additionally, Taiwan has the world’s third-highest rate of vegetarianism, with 13% of the population identifying as vegetarian. This means that no matter where you go, there will be a delicious, satisfying plant-based option.
Most likely, being vegetarian in Taiwan will still be more effort than in your home country. You’ll have to intentionally seek out vegetarian food and figure out what you can eat despite the language barrier. However, in all my Asia travels, Taiwan was one of the easiest places to be vegetarian. Just be careful at night markets, which often don’t have many vegetarian options.
My absolute favorite app when traveling as a vegetarian is HappyCow, which has been extremely useful in many countries across the world, including Taiwan. It uses your current location to pull up a map of vegetarian and vegan options nearby. I recommend you download this app before heading to Taiwan to make sure you always have access to good recommendations.
Want all my insider tips and recommendations for being vegetarian in Taiwan? Check out my survival guide to being vegetarian (and vegan) in Taiwan.
Is Taiwan safe for solo female travelers?
Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world, even for solo female travelers. The crime rate is very low and it’s safe to walk around by yourself, even at night. The locals are very friendly and a lot of them speak English. You should use the same caution you would anywhere else in the world, but you shouldn’t encounter any problems and you’ll feel safe everywhere you go.
Taiwan Travel Guide: Itinerary
With 1 week in Taiwan, you can cover a lot of ground! By basing yourself in Taipei, you’re well-positioned for some amazing day trips. I designed this itinerary to allow for adequate time both in and outside of Taipei, alternating days in Taipei and day trip days to allow for rest in between trips to the farther destinations. Of course, you can switch around the order of the days, but I recommend spreading out your day trips because you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car.
Days 1-2: Taipei
Get oriented to Taipei by spending your first day or two exploring the highlights of the city! Taipei is an amazing city with so much to offer. I suggest starting strong by making your way west to east, starting at Longshan Temple and ending at Elephant Mountain. My suggested route for your first full day is Longshan Temple → Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall → Din Tai Fung → Yongkang Street → Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall → Taipei 101 → Elephant Mountain → Linjiang Night Market.
- Start the day at the beautiful Longshan Temple, which honors both Buddhist and Taoist deities
- Then, take a bus to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, a grand memorial with a large park and history exhibits
- Stop for lunch at the most famous Taiwanese restaurant, Din Tai Fung (the Xinsheng location works perfectly with this itinerary). Din Tai Fung offers amazing xiao long bao (soup dumplings), fried rice, dumplings, noodles, and much more. They also offer vegetarian options. There is always a wait, so factor that into your schedule, but it usually goes quickly and will be worth it!
- Walk off lunch (or grab more food) at Yongkang Street, home to some of the best food in Taipei. You can find a delicious dessert (maybe the famous mango shaved ice?) or refreshing bubble tea. Make sure to walk over to Daan Forest Park, an oasis in the middle of the city.
- Next, head to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, where you can learn more about Taiwanese history and walk around Zhongshan Park
- Just a few minutes walk away is Taipei 101, where you can choose to go up into the observatory for spectacular views or go on a shopping spree in the surrounding malls
- Stop for a drink break at the creator of bubble tea Chun Shui Tang and try the original pearl milk tea
- Then, head to Elephant Mountain 45 minutes – 1 hour prior to sunset. The hike is steep but only takes about 20 minutes, and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the city.
- Finally, end the day with dinner at Linjiang Night Market, a night market off the beaten path with amazing street food
Day 3: Day trip to Jiufen and Shifen
Don’t miss Jiufen and Shifen when in Taiwan! I would argue that if you can only take one day trip from Taipei, this should be it. Jiufen Old Street is a narrow alleyway packed with teahouses, street food, bright red lanterns, and souvenir shops. Shifen, a town not far from Jiufen, is known for its waterfall (the “Niagara Falls of Taiwan”) and lantern releasing. Make sure to decorate and release a lantern while in Shifen – it’s a top bucket list experience!
Although Jiufen and Shifen are reachable via busses from Taipei, I highly recommend this guided tour. This is the exact tour that I did, and I had an amazing time. It allows you to cover so much ground in just one day, stopping at Yehliu Geopark, Yin and Yang Sea, Shuinandong Refinery Site, Golden Waterfall, Jiufen Old Street, Shifen Waterfall, and Shifen Old Street. I enjoyed every single stop, and I felt the tour was well worth the affordable price. To minimize travel time and maximize sightseeing, this is much more convenient than trying to do it on your own. Without taking the guided tour or renting a car, you can’t see everything on this amazing itinerary in just one day!
Day 4: Taipei
You’re back for another full day in Taipei! Today, you’ll visit two famous natural wonders on the outskirts of Taipei: Yangmingshan National Park and Beitou Hot Spring.
Start the day by exploring the beautiful Yangmingshan National Park, which lies only an hour outside of downtown Taipei. First, head to Xiaoyoukeng Recreation Area, where you can see a large volcanic steam vent at Xiaoyoukeng Fumarole. The viewing site is close to the parking lot, making it an easy and short stop.
From there, I recommend that you choose 1 of 2 hikes: Qixingshan Trail or Qingtiangang Circular Trail. Qixingshan Trail is the more advanced trail, at 3.5 miles long and taking an average of 3 hours. The trail passes by volcanic geological landforms before summitting Qixingshan Main Peak and Qixingshan East Peak. Throughout the hike, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. If this hike sounds too daunting or you don’t have enough time, Qingtiangang Circular Trail is a perfect option. It’s 1.5 miles long, taking an average of 50 minutes to circle the Qingtiangang Grassland special scenic area. You might even see wild water buffaloes if you’re lucky!
After your hike, you can take a well-deserved rest by relaxing at Beitou Hot Spring. Located in the foothills of the national park, Beitou is the most famous of all of Taiwan’s hot springs. After enjoying the public bath, you can explore the surrounding neighborhood, which is full of history and nature. It’s the perfect way to spend a chill afternoon after your morning hike. Just be sure to avoid visiting on a Monday, as most of the area’s attractions are closed.
You can choose to explore these areas on your own, or you can join a guided tour. I chose to attempt to do it via public buses and I would not do it again! Relying on buses was a disaster. They were always late and packed with people on very windy, steep roads.
I highly recommend you avoid the unreliable and crowded Yangmingshan busses by joining this guided tour from Taipei. You’ll save a lot of time and be a lot more comfortable.
End your day by stopping at Shilin Night Market on your way back to downtown Taipei. This sprawling night market, often considered the largest and most famous night market in Taiwan, is full of delicious food, arcade games, and trendy clothing shops. Spend an hour or two wandering around to end your day. Word of warning for vegetarians: Shilin Night Market had very few plant-based options.
Day 5: Day trip to Sun Moon Lake
3 hours south of Taipei lies Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan’s largest body of water and one of 13 national scenic areas. You can reach Sun Moon Lake from Taipei by rental car, a journey on the train and bus, or by guided tour. For ease and efficiency, I suggest this guided tour from Taipei. I did this exact tour myself and really enjoyed it! A van will pick you up at Taipei Main Station and drop you off at the boat pier, where you’ll have free time to explore from pier to pier. Then your guide will drive you to Wenwu Temple (which is inaccessible from the boat piers) before heading back to Taipei.
- See the stunning lake views at Xuan Zang Temple, then walk further up the road to Cien Pagoda for even better views
- Eat delicious street food in Ita Thao Shopping District
- Make sure to try the Michelin-star black tea ice cream at Tea18
- Take the glass-bottom Sun Moon Lake cable car for more amazing views
- Explore the stunning lakeside Wenwu Temple, my favorite temple I visited in Taiwan!
- If you have extra time, rent a bike and make your way around the entire lake
- CNN chose this as one of the top 10 cycling paths in the world!
Day 6: Taipei
For your final full day in Taipei, you’ll start the day at the National Palace Museum. This stunning museum is full of nearly 700,000 pieces of Chinese artifacts and artworks. Spend a few hours wandering the collection and learning about ancient Chinese artifacts, calligraphy, paintings, and porcelain.
After spending the morning taking in history, head to Huashan 1914 Creative Park. This old sake winery has been converted into a cultural hub full of shops, local arts and crafts, and special events. It’s a great place to grab lunch, look for some unique local souvenirs, and stop for a bubble tea break at a cafe.
Finally, end the day by exploring the neighborhood of Ximending. This vibrant, eclectic neighborhood is especially fun at night when you can catch a street performance, enjoy street food, and head to a bar. When you’re in Ximending, make sure to:
- Take a picture in front of the iconic Red House
- See a small but ornate temple at Tianhou Temple
- Visit the LGBTQ+-friendly area, which includes some of Ximending’s best bars and the iconic Rainbow Six Crossing
- Take selfies with cute props and costumes at a photo booth
- Watch talented street performers
- Go shopping at Don Don Donki, a Japanese-style superstore
- Eat delicious street food at Ximending Night Market
- Try unusual ice cream flavors, such as pork floss, Taiwan beer, and taro, at Snow King
- End the night with a movie-inspired drink at HANKO 60, a movie theater speakeasy
Day 7: Day trip to Hualien
Hualien, a mountainous county on Taiwan’s east coast, is home to the spectacular Taroko National Park. Stunning cliffs, waterfalls, viewpoints, and gorges await on this day trip that’s perfect for nature lovers. Similar to Sun Moon Lake, you can get to Hualien from Taipei by driving, taking a train and bus, or joining a guided tour. Public transportation isn’t very reliable and frequent in Hualien, so I suggest renting a car or joining a tour.
I personally took this guided tour from Taipei and loved every minute of it. It covers the highlights of the national park in just one day, from Xiaozhuilu Trail to Swallow Grotto Trail to the Eternal Spring Shrine to Taroko Qingshui Cliff. It includes pick-up and drop-off at Taipei Main Station, making it very convenient and efficient.
And with that, one amazing week in Taiwan will fly by! You will be absolutely stunned by everything that this small island has to offer. With this Taiwan travel guide, you can rest assured that you saw the highlights of the north of the island. Soon, you’ll be planning a trip back to explore the south.
Want to see more of East Asia while you’re there? From Taipei, it’s only a 2-hour flight to South Korea or a 3-hour flight to Japan. Check out my ultimate South Korea travel guide and ultimate Japan travel guide for inspo to continue your East Asia adventures.